Although antihistamines can provide relief from allergy symptoms, taking an antihistamine and alcohol together may trigger some unwelcome side effects. You could become extremely drowsy and find it difficult to concentrate.
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You should never drink wine or any other alcoholic beverage while you are taking any antihistamines. The medication and alcohol can make you drowsy, creating a potentially dangerous combination, says the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Determining the Function of Antihistamines
Officially known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, seasonal allergies result when trees, grass and other vegetation release pollen particles into the air, notes the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
When some of those airborne particles (or allergens) enter your eyes, throat and nose, your body releases histamines to combat the perceived invaders. As a result, you will experience an allergic reaction. Symptoms may include congestion, sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, itchy eyes, a chronic cough and a sore throat.
To avoid these undesirable symptoms, check your local area's pollen counts, often available from online weather service portals. When pollen readings are at their highest, minimize outdoor activities such as gardening or sports. Keep your home's windows closed, and cool your house via air conditioning placed in recirculation mode.
Although you can take medications that provide symptom relief, Harvard Health Publishing states that allergy pretreatment, or antihistamines, will result in better symptom control.
Read more: 5 Uncommon Ways to Fend Off Cold and Flu
Risks of Antihistamine and Alcohol
If you're taking an antihistamine for your seasonal allergy symptoms, it's best to avoid having a glass of wine or a cocktail, states the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. First, some medications, including cold and allergy drugs, contain multiple ingredients that can react with alcohol. If the medication label isn't clear, consult with your pharmacist about the potentially negative effects of combining the two substances.
Some seemingly innocuous medications, including many over-the-counter drugs, can interact negatively with alcohol. Certain herbal remedies, often publicized as having beneficial effects for varied health conditions, can also be harmful when taken with any type of alcoholic beverage.
Some antihistamines have been shown to cause drowsiness and sleepiness, while alcohol often produces the same effects. Combining an antihistamine and alcohol will likely magnify your sleepiness and drowsiness. Excessive sleepiness makes it tough to concentrate or perform work and driving or operating machinery could be especially dangerous.
Finding the Right Antihistamine
With numerous antihistamines on the market, finding the right one for you might take some time. Some antihistamines work for four to six hours, while others are designed to be effective for 12 to 24 hours, says the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Some antihistamines are formulated to contain a decongestant that should put a halt to your runny nose.
Certain antihistamines are designed to trigger less feelings of sleepiness than others but, regardless of your medication choice, always avoid alcohol when you're taking an antihistamine.
Claritin is the brand name of the antihistamine loratadine. This widely used drug has become well known as an allergy, cold and flu medication, notes the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
As is the case with other antihistamines, mixing Claritin and alcohol can make you very drowsy. You might also feel dizzy, and face a higher risk of medication overdose. Claritin and alcohol can be a very dangerous combination.
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A Zyrtec alcohol mix is equally hazardous, states the University of Rochester Medical Center. Known generically as cetirizine, Zyrtec has also become a prominent player in the antihistamine market. To avoid potentially dangerous Zyrtec alcohol interactions, you should refrain from consuming wine, beer or other alcoholic drinks while taking this antihistamine.
Although most antihistamines can make you feel drowsy, Zyrtec-D is an exception, notes the Mayo Clinic. This dual-purpose medication combines cetirizine and pseudoephedrine, a decongestant often used to treat seasonal allergy symptoms. Zyrtec-D's decongestant component could potentially cause you to have trouble obtaining restful sleep. If that's the case, take each day's final dose several hours before bedtime.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: "Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol With Medicines"
- Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: "Seasonal Allergies: Keeping Symptoms in Check"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The Secret to an Easier Allergy Season"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Antihistamines for Allergies”
- University of Rochester Medical Center: "Cetirizine Zyrtec: Important Patient Information"
- Mayo Clinic: "Cetirizine and Pseudoephedrine (Oral Route)"